Virginia Del. Bob Marshall has officially entered the race for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate. His announcement came Monday, but word had leaked last week that he was throwing his hat into the race. He will be going up against several other Republican candidates, including George Allen.
In his announcement, he declined to mention any of his GOP opponents and rather went straight after Democratic frontrunner Tim Kaine.
"I can beat Tim Kaine in the Nov. 6 general election," he said in a statement announcing his run. "I already have a ‘can do’ record of challenging Tim Kaine and winning in the public arena on major economic and social issues, and I can do it again."
While Marshall didn't mention Allen, Kaine's staff did it for him.
"Given George Allen's record of increasing state spending by 45 percent as Virginia's governor and helping turn a record surplus into a record deficit as a U.S. Senator, it's no wonder Del. Bob Marshall believes he can beat Allen in a Republican primary," Kaine communications director Brandi Hoffine said. "We welcome Del. Marshall to the race and look forward to contrasting our positive record of fiscal responsibility and sound economic management with the Allen/Marshall agenda that would rather re-litigate past disputes than find common ground on future challenges."
But why is Marshall announcing his run now? That's what many are wondering, including conservative blogger Tim Donner at Bearing Drift:
One thing seems certain. Marshall’s presence will suck the air out of the room and further divide an already riven tea party base. At the same time, history and my own personal experience have proven that it is extremely difficult to flip the supporters of candidates who entered the race well before you. Even the most rational appeals to people committed to other candidates are ultimately seen by such supporters as requiring an admission that they were wrong. And people simply do not like to admit they were wrong.
As Dan Roem of the National Journal pointed out last week, Marshall could be a big thorn in Allen's side leading up to the March 6 primary.
Marshall's entrance into the race will present Allen with an opponent who will raise social issues in the campaign, and one who is better-known to Republicans that any of the other candidates trying to chase down the former senator in the primary.
He is one of the state's leading opponents against the federal health care reform law, won a state Supreme Court challenge against the funding of a transportation bill, and sponsored the constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2006 barring same-sex marriages and civil unions in Virginia.
More recently, Marshall proposed a bill that included a so-called "personhood amendment", which would define life as beginning when an egg is fertilized, and says the Commonwealth should grant rights, privileges, and immunities to what the bill calls "unborn children."
During a debate with Allen, Kaine said a "personhood amendment" would criminalize contraceptive use, and his campaign later said Marshall's bill would outlaw certain forms of contraception. Marshall, obviously, disagreed and took Kaine's comments during the debate with Allen as an attack on his bill.
Marshall made a similar move to run for Senate in 2008, when he took on former Gov. Jim Gilmore in the GOP convention. Marshall narrowly lost out to Gilmore, and Gilmore eventually lost the November election to Mark Warner.
Besides Marshall and Allen, there are at least three others running for the nomination -- Jamie Radtke, a Tea Party candidate from Chesterfield County, E.W. Jackson of Chesapeake and David McCormick of Virginia Beach.